New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

New York Daily News NYC Board of Elections made new online voter registration worse than paper enrollment by Anna Sanders

NYC Board of Elections made new online voter registration worse than paper enrollment

New Yorkers will be able to register to vote online later this week — but the process will take even more time than snail-mail enrollment.

The Campaign Finance Board’s new web portal will go online this Thursday after the Board of Elections voted to add another step to the process, making enrolling through the new system even more cumbersome than traditional paper registration.

The CFB has to compile the registrations made through the online portal and provide them to the BOE. The board voted on June 11 to further require those who register through the portal be mailed an additional form that they have to send back with their handwritten signature.

“They’re adding in additional steps that actually make it harder to register to vote than if you were completing a paper form,” said Alex Camarda, a senior policy adviser for good government group Reinvent Albany.

Mayor de Blasio’s office also slammed the BOE’s decision.

“The Board of Elections continues to prove they have no interest in making voting easy for New Yorkers, especially young people who are engaged online," de Blasio spokesman Raul Contreras said. “We won’t accept their excuses -- online voter registration must be a seamless and easy process from start to finish.”

Councilman Ben Kallos, who sponsored the legislation mandating the web portal, said the BOE decided to “disenfranchise voters.”

“In a city with some of the worst voter turnout in the country, the Board of Elections should be doing everything in its power to make voting easier, not trying to make it harder for new voters,” Kallos (D-Manhattan) said.

There are over 5 million New Yorkers registered in the city, and roughly 4.7 million are active voters, according to enrollment figures as of February. Just around 2.1 million voted in the most recent November election.

The BOE did not return a message seeking comment on Monday.

Reinvent Albany and Citizens Union are now calling on state lawmakers to amend the law to circumvent the BOE’s decision before the legislative session ends on Wednesday, allowing electronic signatures for voter registration across New York.

This would allow the city’s Campaign Finance Board and other organizations to create voter registration portals that don’t require handwritten signatures.

“Good government groups and candidate campaigns have long supplemented the government’s voter registration infrastructure by conducting voter registration drives using paper forms,” Reinvent Albany and Citizens Union wrote in a letter to state leaders on Friday. “We should empower third parties like Vote.org, TurboVote, good government groups, and others to similarly engage in digital voter registration initiatives to ensure all eligible voters are registered and make it easier for New Yorkers to participate in our democracy.”

The de Blasio administration is also lobbying state lawmakers.

“We’ll continue to advocate for this modern system that can engage the most number of people in our democracy,” Contreras said.

Issues

Get involved to make your voice heard.

Get monthly updates with the information you need to make a difference.